6 Questions with Bill Charbonneau Creator of Small Market Sports
While I love a good web comic riff on Batman being raped or Mass Effect promoting masturbation I love a great sports reference. When I need that sports reference I come to Bill Charbonneau’s Small Market Sports. My favorite thing about this sports reference comic is that regardless of what it’s about is that it’s drawn really well and continuously makes me laugh. I don’t even follow sports much anymore yet this guy gets me to come back twice a week. If you don’t get the joke Bill’s blogs will fill you in on what story is being referenced so that you aren’t too alienated with the more obscure sports stories. He also pays great respect to fallen sports stars that I used to idolize before I ever became the Wolverine fanatic I am today (RIP Gary Carter).
The OG: I haven’t followed sports religiously since the early 90s and yet I still love the hell out of your twice weekly web comic. How do you go about handling sports references yet making them relatable to everyone?
BC: I figure that many sports fans (myself included) aren’t diehard fans of all sports so setting up each gag with a summary of the facts really is a necessity or the humor will miss the mark with a lot of people. Sometimes that means the comic might read a bit like a newspaper article and tend to be a little wordier than I might otherwise like but I think it’s a necessary evil if I want the humor to hit a wide audience. If I’m lucky maybe I’ll even get a few non-sports fans smiling too.
The OG: Your art style is simple and very clean and your jokes are done really well. Tell me the origin of you wanting to draw and create?
BC: This is likely the same old story of most other cartoonists and probably more than just a little clichéd, but I don’t really remember a time in my life when I wasn’t drawing or creating comics. For better or worse, I’ve had no real choice in the matter. I’ve just always made comics.
The OG: Being a sport focused web comic you handle a lot of topical topics that just happen. I would imagine that in sports it’s important to do this. How long does it take for you to create a comic and how many times do you have scrap an idea because some sports start sexts a picture of their crank?
BC: The most time consuming part of making the comic is finding a sports headline that is either controversial or at least interesting that can be successfully made fun of within three or four panels. When something like Brett Favre’s sexting scandal comes up I can usually get a lot of mileage of out it (I really should write him a thank you note!) and several comics worth of jokes will practically write themselves. In recent years, I’m happy to say that pro athletes have really been providing an almost never ending stream of stuff to poke fun at.
Once the topic or theme is found, the comic making process is really quick. Maybe an hour or two from concept to finished product depending on the detail levels of the backgrounds and number of panels.
I think the only time I’ve had to scrap an idea is when I’d created the comic too far in advance and as the actual story unfolded it made the gags dated and/or incorrect. Its why, aside from the Monday installments which are created a week in advance to accommodate weekly newspaper printing deadlines, I generally don’t allow myself to have a buffer.
The OG: Your comics point out the depravity of the sports world today and observations of yester year. What kind of topics really get you excited to write about and do you miss the days of gentlemen athletes like Richard Sevigny and Brian Engblom?
BC: I’m afraid; gentlemen athletes would rarely make the cut into Small Market Sports. Unless, of course, they drowned dogs, shot themselves in the leg at a nightclub, or got caught with a hooker in a very gentlemanly manner. Actually, I have to admit that writing about the depravity of some pro athletes and picking on them at what is likely the most difficult time in their lives makes me cringe every now and again. Not enough to stop poking fun at them, mind you (that’s what cease and desist letters are for), but I do occasionally make conscious decisions to pull a few punches (fear of aforementioned cease and desist letters).
My favorite comics to write about, other than my never-ending whine fests about the Expos turned Nationals, are when I write character driven storylines that are only laced with a hint of topical humor instead of focusing on it. Generally the month-long Christmas story arcs get me the most hyped.
The OG: What other web comics do you read and what really inspired you to do a webcomic?
BC: Honestly, I was inspired by not wanting to toil in a cubicle designing print and web advertisements for a software company for the rest of my days. So I resigned from my job and worked on what at the time I thought was an original idea of distributing comics on the web! Who knew that even back in 1999 there was already a slew of highly talented cartoonists blazing that webcomic trail long before I uploaded my first toon to the web (Voices in my Hand). After that I read just about everything by everyone who published a comic online.
Since my son was born a year and a half ago I’m almost ashamed to say my regular reads are few and far between. That’s not to say there isn’t some truly remarkable stuff out there that everyone should be reading, but I simply don’t have the time to read anything on a regular basis any more.
Essentially, whatever pops up on my Twitter feed when I log on to it once or twice a day is what I’ve been reading lately.
The OG: Who would win in a fight Wolverine or the combined might of Tim Rains and Tim Wallach when they were on the Expos?
BC: I’m not sure. I mean, Wolverine and Tim Raines’ are both really quick and I think Wolverine’s adamantium claws and Wallach’s Gold Glove would only cancel each other out. It’d be close but I think in the end Wolvie might be distracted by the old tri-coloured Expos caps and powder blue uniforms long enough to get a significant beat down.
Now that you know more about Bill and Small Market Sports take a look at his archives and social media sites below.